JIS News

Senior citizens 60 years and older, suffering from chronic illnesses, are given special treatment by the Government, with free medication supplied through the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), which was established in 1996 by the Ministry of Health.

JADEP was initiated by the Government as part of ongoing efforts to provide a basket of pharmaceuticals to treat specific chronic illnesses afflicting the elderly.

The National Health Fund (NHF) commenced administration of JADEP in 2004, under its Individual Benefits Programme, and hails its achievements as a major success. Efforts are continuously being made to significantly advance its provisions to effectively fulfill the health needs of Jamaica’s senior citizens.

Vice President for Individual Benefits at the NHF, Anne Logan, tells JIS News that JADEP, which has an operational budget of approximately $200 million per annum, currently covers approximately 73 pharmaceuticals to treat 10 chronic illnesses.

These include: arthritis, asthma, glaucoma, benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate, hypertension, cardiac disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, vascular disease, and psychiatric conditions.

There are approximately 240 pharmacies, including 10 DrugServ Pharmacies, which are participating JADEP providers that form the network for delivery of pharmaceuticals to beneficiaries.

JADEP’s membership currently stands at approximately 250,000, with 10,000 persons being enrolled in 2012. Members are able to access the benefits through the provision of a JADEP card which is issued to them, once their application has been submitted and approved.

Cognizant of the ever-changing profile of chronic illnesses affecting the elderly, Mrs. Logan says the NHF conducts periodical reviews of JADEP’s pharmaceutical provisions, to ensure they remain up to date, that is, in keeping with the prescribing patterns.

She informs that, consequent on these reviews; revisions have been made to the programme’s provisions over the years, such as the addition of felodipine, and more recently, amlodipine, for treating hypertension.

Additionally, an insulin pen, which enhances the convenience of diabetics administering their medication, has been incorporated into the provisions. Mrs. Logan points out that the pen’s configuration does not necessitate refrigeration of the medication and facilitates easier administration of doses.

“We believe that this is a significant improvement in this regard, as it improves the level of convenience to the beneficiary, and has a positive impact on medication adherence,” she adds.

Persons wishing to enroll on JADEP are required to fill out an application form, which is available at the NHF’s Head Office, 25 Dominica Drive, Kingston 5 or at NHF satellite offices located at the Mandeville Regional Hospital, Manchester; St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, St. Ann; and Cornwall Regional Hospital, Montego Bay. Forms are also available at several participating JADEP pharmacies, public health institutions, and some doctors’ offices.

Mrs. Logan advises that applicants must ensure that their doctors indicate their medical condition(s) on the form before returning it to NHF’s Head Office or any of their satellite offices.

“Once this is submitted and all the requirements are met, the NHF will proceed to process the application and issue a JADEP card to the beneficiary, which can be used at any of the participating JADEP providers located islandwide. The JADEP card will enable the beneficiaries to access allowable benefits, once a valid prescription is presented,” she explains.

Mrs. Logan says that while the drugs are provided free of cost by the NHF, beneficiaries are asked to pay $40 for each pharmaceutical item, up to a maximum of $240 per prescription. Therefore, if a prescription contains six items, the patient pays $240; and if a prescription contains more than six items, the patient only pays $240.

The payment is, basically, a token fee that is paid to the JADEP provider pharmacies for their dispensing services. Mrs. Logan also explains that waiving the fee is discretionary on the providers’ part, for persons who require medication but are unable to pay.

JADEP is one of two programmes of medical assistance provided under the NHF’s Individual Benefits portfolio. The other is the NHF Card programme which covers beneficiaries of all age groups.

In addition to the illnesses covered under JADEP, the NHF card also covers breast and prostate cancer, epilepsy, major depression, and rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease.

The NHF also provides assistance to organizations through grants under its Institutional Benefits Programme, allocated from its Health Promotion and Protection Fund, and Health Support Fund. The Health Promotion and Protection Fund supports private and public sector projects in educational and primary care activities, while the Health Support Fund provides resources for public sector infrastructure and development projects supporting the national health care policy.

In pointing out the NHF’s focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, of which the individual and institutional benefits programmes are central, Mrs. Logan informs that the agency’s activities are funded from three sources. These are: a 20 per cent allocation from National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions; 20 per cent of the Special Consumption Tax (SCT) charged on tobacco products; and five per cent of SCT charges applied to petroleum and other related products

On assuming the responsibility for JADEP, the NHF took the decision to maintain and enhance the programme’s provisions, which have yielded significant benefits. The programme’s success is underpinned by the ongoing enrolment of beneficiaries who are able to derive pharmaceutical benefits to treat their conditions at minimal cost. The agency contends that access to these benefits will lead to improved medication adherence, resulting in the reduction of complications due to uncontrolled conditions.

Over the years the NHF has organized a number of health fairs islandwide, which provide screening tests and health education for residents in communities. The agency sometimes partners with the Ministry of Health and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as churches and charitable organizations to undertake a number of these activities.

The NHF also has other health promotion activities, including the NHF Work It Out Challenge, Salt Awareness Week, and School Screening Programme.

Mrs. Logan tells JIS News that through the many programmes, sponsorships and public education efforts, the NHF has successfully utilized these opportunities to heighten public awareness about the benefits of the JADEP and NHF programmes, and the importance of adopting a health lifestyle. Consequently, she adds, the agency has made an impact by reducing the burden of health care costs.

Contact: Douglas McIntosh

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